The NHL and NHLPA are taking small steps towards completing the 2019-20 season, which has been postponed since March 12 due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
On Friday, the NHLPA agreed to further negotiations with NHL about a plan that would allow 24 teams to playoff.
The NHLPA issued a statement on Friday:
“The Executive Board of the National Hockey League Players’ Association has endorsed further negotiations with the NHL in a 24-hour team format to re-determine the winner of the 2020 Stanley Cup. Some details must still be negotiated and agreement on the format will still be subject to parties who reach agreement on all issues that relevant to continuing the game.
Unless further negotiations cause changes, this format is expected to see the top four teams at each conference (based on percentage points at the time the NHL stops its regular season) to get a bye into the first round. The four teams will play a mini tournament to determine the winner.
The following eight teams at each conference will hold a “play-in” round and are seeded based on their percentage points in each conference during the NHL break.
In this format, the fifth seed Penguins will face the Montreal Canadiens No. 12 in the best-of-five series.
One format considered calling for the play-in round became the best-of-three series. Based on Elliotte from Sportsnet Friedman, NHLPA members expressed concern that potentially facing All-Star goalscorer Price Carey in just three matches would be unfair for any team that would withdraw the Canadiens.
Friedman reported the Penguins defender Kris Letang, who acted as the team’s representative for the players’ association, choose to support a best-of-five format that makes them potentially confront the Canadiens.
“In the end, the playoffs are a different animal,” Letang said. “It doesn’t matter (who) you are playing with, it will be difficult. (If not Montreal), it would be Washington, or Philadelphia, or a challenge like that. ”
Before the break, Canadien was already far from the playoff picture. Before the February trading deadline, they operated as sellers and gave All-Star striker Ilya Kovalchuk a draft pick.
Under this agreement, they will get the chance to compete for the Stanley Cup, starting with the Penguins, who won 2-1-0 against the Canadiens this season.
Even with this vote, the potential return of action is still weeks, if not months, far from happening.
There are several factors beyond the control of the NHL or NHLPA, most of which relate to governments at the local, state, provincial and national levels in the United States and Canada.
Most notable was the closure of the border between the United States and Canada for “unimportant” travel until at least June 21. The appointment includes “tourism, recreation and entertainment.” On Tuesday, NHL commissioner Bill Daly to Frank Seravalli from TSN he “hopes” that the closure will not affect the league’s return to play.
A number of Canadian Penguins’ native players who went to homes north of the border, including Tristan Jarry and Matt Murray.
European players returning to their homes on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean may need to deal with independent quarantine for 14 days after re-entering the United States or Canada.
Assuming all players who are willing to enter the United States or Canada, it will be a matter of local or state / province jurisdiction that allows a sizeable meeting for the three week training camp, requested by the NHLPA.
Finding a way to do it in a fair and universal way will be a pretty big task. For example, regulations might be made earlier at Cranberry, where the Penguins training facility is located, compared to Vorhees Township, N.J., where the Philadelphia Flyers facility is located.
Another thing that still needs to be resolved is where the game will be staged. The NHL has considered eight or nine “hub” cities to hold tournaments. Areas with relatively low infection rates and adequate lodging options will be considered. So locales like Las Vegas will obviously be considered while the New York metro area, even with four NHL caliber arenas, won’t see hockey in the near future given how coronaviruses have damaged that population.
Columbus, Ohio is seen as a potential location for playing games. Ohio has a fairly low infection rate of 263 confirmed infections per 100,000 population on Thursday according to The New York Times. In addition, downtown Columbus has several upscale hotels – virtual requirements for professional sports teams – around the Nationwide Arena, which also has a training ground at the venue.
All of that means a potential tent series between Penguins Sidney Crosby and Montreal Canadiens Price can be played in front of a mostly empty building – team staff and arena employees will be allowed on site – three hours west of downtown Pittsburgh.
If the game continues, the main problem is regular testing for players. If there is a positive test, does that mean quarantine for infected teammates or individual players, coaches or staff?
Beyond that, what kind of rules will be applied in relation to person-to-person contact? Major League Baseball, a sports league where contact is rather minimal, has aimed at some rules that would prohibit activities that seem mediocre such as fists or spitting.
Hockey, with hugs to celebrate goals, scrums, fights, goal mouth fights and disgusting face feathers, involves far more contact, to make it smoother.
NHL and NHLPA took the first step towards returning to the ice Friday. Now, they need to walk a few more miles to make it happen.
Penguins / NHL | Sports
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